Your Ultimate Guide to Hiking and Camping in Tahoe National Forest

Your Ultimate Guide to Hiking and Camping in Tahoe National Forest

Campers and hikers in Tahoe National Forest will find remoteness and striking mountain views, but still have access to the amenities of small towns and communities. Tahoe straddles the California-Nevada border but the lake itself is one of the cleanest in the United States. Bring the basic gear like a map, water, and a reliable sunscreen for a comfortable sojourn in this magical place.

Your Ultimate Guide to Hiking and Camping in Tahoe National Forest

This guide introduces you to three types of camping. Rent a kayak (or bring your own) and explore the shoreline of Lake Tahoe for an exclusive “boat-in” camping experience, drive to one of dozens of developed campgrounds, or backpack into the backcountry of Tahoe National Forest.

Tahoe National Forest Kayaking

The southern shore of Lake Tahoe on the California side offers famous Emerald Bay Boat Camp sites. This is a great paddle opportunity for the while family. The nearly 10-mile route takes you beneath tall waterfalls with views of the Sierra Nevada. There are several launch sites in the area. There are commercial boats near Emerald Bay, so the water can be choppy in their wakes.

Camping includes 20 tent sites (boat-in only), public restrooms and hiking trailheads. You can camp anywhere along the beach in the large bay. Bring your own water, and be sure to get a map online or at the National Forest Visitor Center.

Car Camping

Tahoe National Forest has developed campgrounds, cabins and dispersed camping available. Group camping requires a permit and many sites charge a fee.

Campgrounds range from a few tent sites to 250 developed sites with RV camping, developed bathrooms with showers, and higher fees to match. Some Tahoe campgrounds have full toilets, others use vault toilets, and still others are primitive.

More primitive sites may still include easy access to water source, such as a stream, and bear-proof boxes. The number and variety of campgrounds in this huge national forest is impressive, so plan ahead of time if you are looking for the ideal spot to set up your campsite.


There is a bounty of trails and dispersed camping opportunity in Tahoe National Forest. The National Forest dispersed camping website provides suggestions and guidelines for your backcountry experience. The maximum stay is 14 days.

Check out Baltimore Lake as an example of easy-to-reach dispersed camping. Pay attention to park rules and restrictions like getting a campfire permit and packing trash out.

Make sure you are well versed in the gear necessary for a backpacking adventure. The forest does provide shade but the intense sun at altitude means you should always carry sunscreen, a protective hat, and sunglasses. Our snapback trucker hats are comfortable and protective for intense sun exposure. 

Check your water sources and carry a good water filter or purifying kit.